Loss of Rainforest Species
The evolution and extinction of species has been going on for millions of years. Certain species evolve and, if environmental conditions are favorable, they flourish; if the conditions are not favorable or change drastically, the species undergo a decline and may eventually disappear to give way to other species. This is part of the natural evolutionary trend. However, the drastic decline and disappearance of many species in recent years is a trend mainly caused by human activities and intervention, and is a matter of grave concern. The loss of biodiversity may have far-reaching implications on the environment and thereby on human existence.
At present, rainforests are being denuded at a rapid pace for mainly logging, land-clearing, agriculture and grazing purposes. This habitat loss is devastating for rainforest species which are left without shelter, food and water, and as importantly, without the symbiotic relationships many of them maintain with other rainforest species for their mutual survival. Often, as these species are unable to adapt to different surroundings, they decline and find themselves on the road to extinction. The threat to their habitat aside, poaching for meat, traditional medicine and fur, and trophy hunting have also put many animals and plants on the most endangered rainforest species list.
The Endangered List
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists species in the following categories –
- Critically Endangered (facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild)
- Endangered (facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild)
- Vulnerable (facing a high risk of extinction in the wild)
- Near Threatened (close to qualifying for Vulnerable)
- Least Concern (species not qualifying for the other categories, including widespread and abundant species)
Putting a species on the endangered list offers it legal protection and ensures that adequate measures are taken to save its habitat. Researchers study why a species is endangered and what can be done to aid its recovery, and, in some cases, the steps taken have helped a species climb back from near-extinction. The Brazilian Lear’s Macaw (Anodorhynchus leari), for instance, has increased in numbers due to the efforts of the Brazilian government, people and NGOs, and is no longer Critically Endangered, though still on the Endangered list.
A good many species, however, never make it to the Endangered lists and disappear ‘quietly into the night’. There are several reasons for this.
- They may be still unknown to researchers.
- They may not be deemed sufficiently important. Humans have the unfortunate tendency to mete out who is worth saving and who is not. For instance, a polar bear may be considered worth saving, but a spider would attract comparatively less attention.
- Economic considerations take precedence over the ecological ones, and politicians lobby to keep the species off the endangered list.
A negative point about the Endangered list, that ought to be mentioned, is that being featured on it often, far from protecting the species, draws the attention of poachers, hunters and collectors. They want to ‘bag’ the trophy before it disappears.
The following might help to save the most endangered rainforest species –
- Save their habitats.
- Offer jobs and economic incentives to the indigenous people to help save the habitats.
- Guard against poachers.
- Ban trophy hunting and the import/export of animal furs and other items.
- Institute breeding programs in captivity with the aim of releasing the animals in the wild eventually.
- Follow a green lifestyle that has a minimum impact on the environment.
- Stop patronizing companies and organizations that carry out rainforest destruction.
- Write to your government representatives in support of conservation efforts.
Some Rainforest Species that are Endangered
Golden Lion Tamarin Monkey (Leontopithecus rosalia): It is found in the Brazilian coastal lowland forests. It has been hunted for its magnificent golden pelt that can command very high prices from collectors.
Hainan Gibbon (Nomascus hainanus): This Gibbon is found on the island of Hainan. There are only about 17 specimens left in the wild.
Albert’s Lyrebird (Menura alberti): This bird is found in the Australian rainforest between the Blackwell (New South Wales) and Mistake (Queensland) ranges.
Gorgeted Puffleg (Eriocnemis isabellae): A colorful hummingbird that is found in the rainforests of the Serraníadel Pinche mountain range in Brazil. Endangered due to loss of habitat, that is, the cutting down of the rainforest to make way for coca plantations.
The Purple Marsh Crab (Afrithelphusa monodosa): Long-legged, semi-terrestrial crabs that are found in the rainforests of upper Guinea, West Africa. Endangered due to loss of its wetland habitat.
Panay Monitor Lizard (Varanus mabitang): A lizard that is found in the lowland tropical moist forest on the island of Panay in the Philippines. Endangered by habitat loss and overhunting for food.
Toussaintia orientalis: A small tree that is found in the dry evergreen lowland forest and bushland in Tanzania and Kenya. Losing out to agricultural expansion and other human activities.
Photo Source – Adrian Pingstone – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Golden_Lion_Tamarin_cropped.jpg